Many members of the House Freedom Caucus want Congress to vote on an authorization of military force against Islamic State terrorists.
While Republicans in Congress have long ridiculed President Barack Obama’s military campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, lawmakers have so far refused to authorize the use of force against the group, for political and practical reasons.
But as part of his bold, aggressive agenda for 2016, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is pushing for his members to consider a new Authorization of Military Force this year.
Authorizing the use of military force is supposed to be a simple exercise. Rather than delineating a specific strategy, an AUMF—as a war authorization is known—gives the basic legal authority for the U.S. military to use force against an enemy.
The president has argued that he already has the power to carry out his ISIS offensive under the existing 2001 AUMF permitting the targeting of groups connected to 9/11 attacks and the 2012 AUMF authorizing the Iraq war.
Obama has urged Congress to give him new authority, but there’s been bipartisan reluctance among lawmakers to do so.
That may be changing.
This month, Ryan enlisted his committee chairmen to gauge the commitment of members to proceed on an AUMF against ISIS. House leaders will find most of the Freedom Caucus’ 40 or so members supportive.
“It is our constitutional responsibility,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., who is spearheading the Freedom Caucus’ push for an AUMF. “I believe that ISIS definitely poses a threat to everything I love and stand for, and I believe that if we are going to get serious about eradicating them, then we need an updated AUMF. And I think the clear majority of the Freedom Caucus believes we need to lead on this issue as well.”
Though the group is not prepared to take a formal vote as a group that—if 80 percent of members approved—would make their support of an AUMF an official position, interviews with The Daily Signal make clear how committed members are.
“Our job is to do our job,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “If the speaker thinks we need to move on an AUMF, and our members think that, then I don’t have a problem with that at all.”
The act of defining the effort against ISIS in language that everyone can support has proven so far to be perilous—so challenging that both Republicans and Democrats have found it easier not to engage.
Obama, of course, has been waging a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since June of 2014.
And most in Congress agree that the president is able to confront ISIS under the old war authorizations.
Seeking unity, Obama last year sent Congress a draft AUMF explicitly providing congressional authorization for the ISIS fight. In his State of the Union, Obama called on Congress to act this year.
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